As an Active-Duty service member, we tend to take things for granted – food, shelter, and even that direct deposit on the 1st /15th. When things are suddenly wrenched away from us – for whatever reason, it can come off as a stiff punch to the gut. Leaving many wondering how they’ll survive in the “real world,” and questioning the rationale behind their departure. But the fact remains, as a member of the United States Armed Forces, you’re an individual with a unique resolve and acumen for survival. In preparation for your departure, a few key elements should be addressed.
Preparing for the Military to Civilian Transition
Prepare in advance. What is it that the Boy Scouts of America say? “Be prepared?” Well, for whatever reason you’re leaving the military – be it voluntary, retirement or due to medical issues, anticipate your departure. Know your separation date and start preparing in advance. Inform family members, friends, possible employers, and whomever you feel in need of that precious information, in the loop. Also, know where you’re going. Once you are out, you’re out. Base privileges generally expire; you surrender room keys and Active-Duty identification. It’s a smart idea to have civilian I.D. readily available, along with pre-arranged accommodations.
Keep track of your service records. Similarly, it would behoove a soon-to-be civilian, to gather all records prior to separation. Military service records document where, when, and who you served with. Be it the streets of Fallujah, Edwards Air Force Base, or Joint Base Pearl Harbor, these reports essentially provide proof of service. School certificates, copies of your security clearances, and miscellaneous recommendations from Commanding Officers and/or supervisors should be collected prior to exiting the main gate. Shortly after separation, a service person should receive a DD-214 – probably the most important of all military records. It is a service member’s official release or discharge from Active Duty. Make several copies and if possible, scan them digitally.
Medical Records – also a must have. This packet details all the sprains, colds, and ingrown toenails a service member may have incurred while Enlisted/Commissioned. These injuries may seem trivial at the moment, but further down the line, they may (unfortunately) come back to haunt you. Aside from physical pain from your ailments, medical bills in the civilian world can be quite costly. Assure you’ve made copies of your medical records – preferably several. The Veterans Administration uses these files to determine your Disability Rating. A subsequent percentage assignment follows, equating to potential monetary compensation – and hopefully life-long medical care.
Although you may have served your country honorably, you need to have the documentation to back it up. When transitioning from Active Duty to civilian, assure to collect all your records – the financial and medical benefits are plentiful.
Over the next few days, we will share with you some tips on making the military to civilian transition, with the goal of giving you the tools and resources you need to better prepare for this major life event.